My Preceptor is Dead

Humpback whale tail by Captain Budd Christman

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. -William Arthur Ward

He was my preceptor, my collaborator, my children’s pediatrician, and my friend. He died August 26th, 2012 – sudden death on a beautiful August morning. 55, active, non-smoker, world traveler, patient advocate, and deliverer of the kind of care you would want for yourself and the world. I heard the news from an email:

“I got a call this morning. Jay passed away yesterday while working at Urgent Care.  I’m still in shock.  He was so healthy and only ate what was good for you…I saw him in July. He looked great.  Such a shock. Take care and this proves that life is too short.”

Passed away. I kept reading them over in unbelief. Then I stared at them, thinking maybe I could will the words away. I heard he was cremated. It wasn’t until a week later when I stepped inside the funeral home and saw the memorials – his favorite puffin tie, high-school yearbook, awards, and larger than life photograph of his robust, smiling face. It was true, he was gone, and I sobbed. Jay had a huge impact on the Nurse Practitioner that I grew to be. As I formed, he gently led me like a father, and slowly let me take my own shape – finding my own way through diagnosing and delivering care to our patients. He game me his pearls. Amoxicillin for smokers. Erythromycin for my-cough-plasma. Brand Tylenol only. Worst Strept throat think Mono. Verify allergies. Save ears for last. Suspension not solution. Maltsupex. 3-day food diary. OM? Remove the wax to see the drum. Toilet paper roll=cheap spacer. Always order HCG despite claim “impossible”. Paps: touch thigh before nether regions. Pharmacist is your friend. Wait one year before RX new drugs. Use mom’s lap for clingers. Be nice, stay humble, eat well, and enjoy life.

Twenty years ago, I was privileged to have trained with him, honored to have worked alongside him, and blessed to have known him. Today’s Nurse Practitioner students are rarely precepted by MD’s. What a shame. Removing them from our education only widens the division of our professions. Perhaps if we took another look at how things used to be we would see ourselves as players on the same team, not separate entities who are different in their approach to patient care. I see no difference. APN’s in training: if you have a chance to precept with a Family Practice Doc, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. My preceptor has died, a life gone too soon, and the loss is devastating.

7 thoughts on “My Preceptor is Dead

  1. Beautifully written Kathy. I am so happy that you have found a space to creatively write!

    (I am not on twitter yet so I haven’t been able to become an official follower, but I will)

  2. I have to echo Cynthia’s comment, Kathy. Absolutely beautifully written. I had no idea you blogged….

    1. Rachele, thank you! I have been blogging over at since we launched the site in 2002, but it was always related to literature and homeschooling. Boys are now men (even the little one) and it’s time for me to open this new chapter in life.

  3. At age 53, this story – actually tragedy – really hits home for me. I can’t imagine that when this dear soul (Jay) was 53 y.o. he had any idea that he had only 2 years of life remaining on this earth…
    Kathy, an eloquently written memorium.

    1. His was a life fully lived Jean, and had he known his time was short I don’t think he would have changed anything. He was mountain climbing the Adirondacks the weekend before – he did things I dream about. Amazing man.

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